The Deconstructed Brief
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Sisters in Sweat


Brand: Gatorade
Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day


Gatorade may seem ubiquitous with performance drinks; however, it has faced strong competitors and declining sales due to a critical series of past missteps — muddled brand extensions and movement away from the core positioning of its brand identity led its market share to fall from 93 percent to 69.5 percent. Gatorade needed to invest in a new strategy designed to reverse its downward spiral and reinvent its tired formula for selling sports performance drinks.

One Thought:

Help build better women.


Gatorade reexamined its core consumer base to understand how to reorient its brand positioning and shift away from the PepsiCo strategy of mass marketing to men ages 18 to 49. Sarah Robb O’Hagan, global president of Gatorade, refocused Gatorade’s messaging to target a smaller and more specific subset of consumers and respun the brand as devoted to athletic prowess. Robb O’Hagan identified young children shifting from fun to serious competition (around age 11) as one of the brand’s key demographic targets. Kids’ sports comprise a $15 billion industry, and serve as the gateway to their mothers — and their $2.4 trillion spending power.

The spot opens on Serena Williams speaking to her newborn daughter cradled in her arms. The open letter-style speech continues as the visuals flash between young women mid-competition and intimate shots of her and her daughter. It concludes with photographs of female executives competing at their childhood sports. Figures such as Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, and Elaine Welteroth, editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, represent the pinnacle of achievement in their careers and embody the role of sports in creating confident, effective leaders.

What they had to say:

“Girls who keep playing sports are healthier, happier and more successful later in life," according to a statement published in Refinery29. "One of the primary reasons girls drop out of sports is because they don't see a future in sports and believe their time is better spent preparing for their future in other ways."

Lessons to be learned:

  • Appeal to the many identities of ‘Mom.’ — The modern mom needs to fulfill a number of different roles and expects mom-specific advertising to reflect this reality. She is a mom, but she is also the head of her household. Gatorade opens on an intimate moment between a mother and her child; however, they then address the idea of Mom as the CEO of her family. The modern mom decides the majority (85 percent) of household purchases and seeks control over its decision-making process. She feels as successful as a mother when spending time with her children as she does completing household chores. Williams’s presence fulfills the qualifications for this role, given her ability to balance motherhood with multiple facets of a professional career.

  • Capitalize on cultural context. The advertisement’s subtle tone makes no direct reference to our complicated political climate composed of debates on sexual assault and racial prejudice; however, it would be difficult to view the spot without these topics in mind. Gatorade demonstrates that it understands the difference between the right and wrong ways to address cultural context. While Williams speaks strength and perseverance to her daughter, millions of women around the world hear her message, too.

  • Stand for something. The majority (88 percent) of U.S. consumers pursue brands with a sense of responsibility. Gatorade seized the opportunity to champion a relevant cause close to mothers’ hearts: girls’ participation in sports. According to a joint study by Gatorade and Refinery29, by the age of 14, girls drop out of sports at 1.5 times the rate of boys. By 17, over half (51 percent) will have stopped playing. Were these women to continue participating in sports, they would see a number of personal benefits: three of the top benefits of staying in sports that girls reported are increased confidence (62 percent), teamwork (64 percent) and leadership skills (54 percent).

  • Personalize the universal. Williams imparts a universal message to her daughter designed for a much broader audience than the baby in her arms. Gatorade juxtaposes her words with specific scenes of athletes competing in a wide array of sporting events. This creates openings for viewers to identify with the advertisement’s core messaging, beyond Williams’ role as a mother and tennis star. This further establishes the sense of community between the women featured in the spot and those viewing it.

  • Be authentic. Moms respond to advertising that demonstrates authenticity. The spot opens on Williams contending with a fussy child, revealing that motherhood is not perfect — not even for a tennis superstar. Williams’s personal story reinforces this concept. Viewers familiar with her story understand the struggles she endured to become the figure she is today. She does not represent yet another spoon-fed celebrity, but a professional who worked hard for her status. By choosing a celebrity whose personal brand aligns with theirs, Gatorade further solidifies its message.